27th Apr2011

Comical Thoughts: Tits & Glass Houses

by Will

So, riddle me this: What’s the difference between this:

and this:

?

What irks me about the comic industry is that the first image gets derided. It’s for an upcoming IDW series spinning out of their Infestation event, but the comments on blog posts have been things like “Do her breasts have to be that big?” Nothing is known about the series at this point, but it’s already been judged by the size of her breasts. It’ll probably be written up as just another example of “cheesecake art”, or will be cited as another example of how comics are a male-dominated industry where women are objectified. Fine.

Now, let’s look at that second image. In case you missed them, her breasts are friggin’  HUGE. For some reason, however, this series NEVER seems to get bashed in the same manner as superhero comics. Whenever the sexuality of Love & Rockets characters is brought up, it’s just brushed off. I tried reading Love & Rockets, and I just didn’t get it; too much going on. First, there’s some lesbian motorcycle mechanics, and then there’s some kind of promiscuous, busty chick named Luba, and I’m not sure if the stories ever cross over. The series is the work of Los Bros Hernandez, and it’s revered by all those who like to spell out the genre as “comix”. You know – the high-brow set. A big reason I couldn’t get into the series was her giant rack. You open up a random Hernandez book, and you see some large-jugged chick in the middle of doggystyle, yet the busty zombie hunter is the one who gets all the flack? I’m not saying that one is necessarily worse than the other, but I wish they were treated according to the circumstances.

I get really tired of people assuming that hero comics are for the uncultured fanboy, while also assuming that everything the indie world puts out somehow lends a sense of cultural validity to the medium. You see Britt, and don’t like what you see, fine – it’s not for you. I read about Maggie and Hopey and Palomar and Luba, and decided I’d rather have a root canal. All I’m saying is you can’t act like you don’t see those things, when they’re just as prevalent as Britt’s. Are we saying Luba’s breasts are OK because they lend to her sexuality, therefore lending to the story as a whole? Are we saying Britt’s breasts aren’t OK because they would impede her zombie hunting abilities? Let’s get our stories straight, people!

24th Mar2011

Adventures West Coast: How I Made It To Eighteen GN

by Will

Oh…where to start with this book? Normally, I use this column as an excuse to get snarky, but this is the rare occasion where I can actually “talk shop”. You see, How I Made It To Eighteen is reminiscent of the kind of submissions that started coming in near the tail end of my time at Diamond. For those of you just tuning in, I used to be a brand manager for Diamond Comic Distributors – the largest comic book distributor in North America. Basically, my department decided which books ended up in comic shops. Well, let me rephrase that: my department decided which non-DC, Marvel, Image or Dark Horse comics ended up in shops; based on their contracts, those publishers can put out whatever the Hell they want. So, basically, I was assigned to what’s known as “the small press”. I worked with sizable publishers, like Fantagraphics, IDW Publishing and Oni Press, but I also worked with a lot of one-man shops. It wasn’t a very “happy” job, as I was constantly crushing someone’s dream. These people had wanted to create comics all their lives, and here I was telling them that they weren’t good enough for widespread exposure. Who was I to judge them, ya know? It’s just that over time, you start to see a pattern in what sells. A lot of the time, these comic hopefuls had great ideas, but just didn’t have a good marketing plan worked out. They felt that just getting into the Previews catalog would be enough publicity, as it would get them in front of the eyes of the country’s comic retailers. Sadly, a Previews blurb is NEVER enough. If they had just taken more time plotting their attack, they might’ve had a better shot on the stands. In other cases, the book just wasn’t what we felt would move in the “direct market” comprised of comic shops. How I Made It To Eighteen would fall into the latter category.

How I Made It To Eighteen, by Tracy White, is a semi-autobiographical tale about “one girl’s struggle with depression and addiction.” I got that from the cover blurb. Before we tackle that, let’s back up for a minute. Prior to reading this book, I had no frame of reference for the writer. According to Ms. White’s included biography, she’s been making webcomics since 1996. While that’s an impressive length of time (this book was published in 2010), it could be argued that the audience for webcomics and that of published comics are two different animals. Not everyone can crank out a PvP or a Penny Arcade, so you often find that people follow webcomics because they’re free, but wouldn’t spend their hard-earned cash on a print collection of them.

One thing the book had going for it was the fact that it came from a book publisher and not a comic publisher. Roaring Book Press doesn’t really have much of a track record in the comic industry, but as an imprint of Macmillan, it has some clout in the “real book” world. Had this been submitted by a first-time creator, who was storing inventory in her garage, it probably never would’ve made it into stores. Diamond’s primary focus is on the +3500 comic specialty shops in the US, and this wouldn’t have appealed to many of those accounts. A book like How I Made It To Eighteen isn’t going to make waves in most comic shops, but it’ll do alright in a Borders, which is what I think to myself every time I see a copy of it on the shelf as I’m looking for the latest volume of Jack of Fables.

Ignoring the subject matter of the book, the art is the main reason that How I Made It To Eighteen wouldn’t appeal to your “typical comic shop”. This is a little known secret, but we rarely read the books that were submitted. There were just too many of them. If the art was good, the book could sell. If it was bad, the book couldn’t. However, in the rare case that the art was mediocre, that’s when we’d read it so that we could see if the writing tipped the scales in the book’s favor. Otherwise, you’re left to sink or swim based on your art. After all, comics are a visual medium – if it doesn’t look good, maybe it should be prose. To look at the art in this book, it’s clear that it came from a webcomic background. It’s rough and rushed – fine if you’re trying to keep some sort of consistent online schedule, but nowhere near polished enough if you want people to pay. Then again, what is “art”? It’s all subjective, so maybe it’s not my cup of tea, but it may appeal to someone else. With that in mind, let’s talk about the story itself.

How I Made It To Eighteen is somewhat based on the author’s life, though events and names have been changed to protect other people. The main character, Stacy Black, is a recent high school graduate who has found herself at a crossroads. She doesn’t want to go to college, but she doesn’t exactly have a plan for her life. She’s obsessed with her emotionally unavailable, yet controlling, boyfriend, and she has a strained relationship with her mother. Through a series of events, she finds herself checked into Golden Meadows Hospital, and the book follows her struggles with depression, addiction, and eating disorders. Now, let me say that I get the draw of this premise: on paper, this should be a great book to share with young women who might be going through similar circumstances. By no means do I wish to belittle Ms. White’s experiences, and many young women might be able to relate to her struggle. It’s for these same reasons, however, that I feel the book is a letdown. Considering the heft of the subject matter, it might be unrealistic to expect everything to be neatly wrapped up in a little bow by the end. That said, I did expect to get more out of the book than I got. The book doesn’t indicate that it’s a part of a series, but it feels incomplete – almost as if the entire story isn’t presented here. If this had been a documentary, we would’ve just been forced to digest the information that was captured, and we’d have the understanding that the footage was edited the best it could be, given what was available. Here, however, the author is in control of the narrative, but it doesn’t feel as if she realized it. The book travels at a somewhat slow pace, but it feels like the ending was thrown together in order to satisfy a deadline. Has the character of Stacy made any progress by this point? Yes, but the reader isn’t given enough information from which to draw any conclusions. I guess the editor felt the same way, as the book ends with a tacked on epilogue page, which has as much substance as those movie end credits that flash a character and say “Bobby went off to ‘Nam. He never came home.”

This is the kind of book that comic snobs LOVE, as it shows you can do more with the comic medium than just feature capes and boobs. Well, you can use comics to tell autobiographical tales, but the successful ones are a lot better than this. The book has promise, but it doesn’t stick the landing. I can forgive the art, as its minimal, rough look doesn’t mar the narrative in any way. What I can’t forgive is the fact that it just doesn’t seem like it was mapped out before it was put on the page. As I said before, a lot of small press books fail because the creators don’t seem to be thinking long-term. Ms White might be skilled in the webcomic format, but I’m not sold on her printed work.

11th Jul2010

Scarlet #1 – A Review?

by Will

scarlet1

This week marked the release of Scarlet #1, the new creator-owned Marvel/Icon comic from Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev. While the duo were well-known for their successful run on Daredevil, I went into this book with mixed feelings. Why was that? Well, I guess you could say that it’s an example of “In Real Life Made Me Hate You”. Let’s take a step back in time, shall we?

Brian Michael Bendis was the first comic writer whose work I purchased solely because of the writer. In the past, I bought X-Men because everybody bought X-Men. I bought Batman because, well, he was Batman. Bendis, however, made me stray outside of that. I never really cared much for Avengers, since they were D-listers at the time, but Bendis got on the book, and I followed suit. While his overarching stories may not be consistent, he’s a master of dialogue. He’s pretty much popularized the “talking head” comic in the modern industry, much to the chagrin of many fanboys. I, however, LOVED his work. I read his autobiographical comics, like Total Sell-Out and Fortune & Glory, plus I even gave Powers a try (still don’t get the hype on that book). Based on Avengers and his Ultimate Marvel work, I think it was safe to say that Bendis was my favorite writer in comics. With that in mind, of course it would have been an honor for me to meet him.

Fast forward to 2008, at the Baltimore Comic-Con. Bendis was making the rare convention appearance out East, and I saw this as my chance to finally get to meet my favorite writer. I got in line for his table EARLY, as we knew he’d be signing, but no one seemed to know when. On top of that, he was doing back to back panels, which seemed to be running over schedule. I’d been to a handful of Baltimore shows, so I knew I wasn’t missing much on the floor. If you’ve seen Howard Chaykin once, then that’s all you need. Bendis, however, was the goal. I must’ve stood in that line for over 4 hours. Sure, I had some interesting fanboy conversations over the course of that time, but I still wasted the better part of the day in that line. When I finally got up to Bendis, he spent the time chatting away on his iPhone. I don’t think he even looked at me. He kinda scrawled his autograph on my comic (which, by the way, didn’t look nearly as good as the potentially fake autograph I’d bought at a show some years earlier. At least that one looked like it said “BENDIS”). Before I could really say anything to him, he handed it back and briefly moved the phone aside to say, “Here ya go, champ”, in the manner of your mom’s new boyfriend who didn’t care enough to learn your name.

Now, I know that whole thing sounds like I have a sense of geek entitlement, but I really expected more. A lot of people have asked, “Well, what did you expect him to do?” I really can’t tell you, but I certainly expected actually get to say something to him. I’m sure everybody says the same, trite “I love your work”, but isn’t that part and parcel of the convention signing experience? At least pretend he cares about his fans. Whenever you read these stories, someone in the comments will say “Well, maybe he was tired” or “‘Maybe he was having a bad day”. None of that seemed to apply here. He was happy and spry; he just wasn’t present. Never meet your heroes, kid. Anyway, my opinion of him kind of took a hit after that, while his star has only continued to rise. I was already grandfathered into his earlier series (like New Avengers and Ultimate Spider-Man), but I wasn’t sure I wanted to get on that horse again. Petty, I know. So, this is where I was coming from when I heard about Scarlet. Due to the buzz surrounding the book, I decided to give it a shot. In retrospect, it’s a great book that I’m not quite sure I should’ve read.

I don’t want to ruin it for you, because the story has an angle to it that should be experienced by the reader. As a quick elevator pitch, Scarlet is the story of a woman who, upon realizing that the world isn’t fair, decides that she’s going to change all of that – by any means necessary. It’s a book with a message, and it’s a potentially dangerous message. It’s almost like Falling Down, the Michael Douglas movie where one bad day pretty much sets an average Joe on a self-destructive path. I say it may not have been the book for me because of what my life has been going through as of late. It speaks to me, and it probably speaks to other readers as well. This familiarity will be good for the book’s accessibility, but do we really need to make angry people any angrier? It could almost be seen as inspirational, but what is it inspiring? It takes the notion of “The World Is Screwed Up”, but follows it up with a “So, What Are You Going To Do About It?”

Seeing as how it’s the first issue, it’s not exactly preachy, but focuses more on providing background info on Scarlet. It will be interesting to see how the book proceeds, seeing as how Bendis has said it’s not meant to be a political book. After all, this means that it will be a battle cry for a revolution that doesn’t specify the end goal. It almost sounds like an invitation to chaos, while it could also follow the notion that society has to be fully destroyed before it can be rebuilt. It’s an interesting concept, and I look forward to seeing where the book is headed. I hate to admit it, but Bendis has still got it. Maybe one day, I might get the chance to tell him that.

02nd May2010

DC Comic-Con: Well, There’s Always Next Year…

by Will

So, today marked the 1st (annual?) DC Comic-Con. However, in this case, “DC” meant “Northern Virginia”, and “Comic-Con” meant “church bazaar”. I really had high hopes for this show. Established as a joint effort between Baltimore Comic-Con creator Marc Nathan, and the Laughing Ogre chain of stores, the show was poised to give the DC-Metro Area its first taste of a somewhat “official” comic book convention. Considering how great the Baltimore show has become over the years, this venture held a lot of promise. Unfortunately, something went wrong between idea and execution.

Now, I was actually supposed to volunteer for the show, as I first learned about it when I was in Marc’s store a few months back. He had a really good idea: he was already hosting a Free Comic Book Day signing in his store, so he figured he would just offer those guests an extra night’s hotel stay, and have them as his guests for the show. On top of that, he was going to make sure that all of the local shops had flyers available on FCBD, so that he could take advantage of the newcomers who might be flocking to stores. Considering his guest list was going to include Frank Cho (Ultimate Avengers 2, Liberty Meadows), JG Jones (52, Marvel Boy), Jo Chen (Buffy Season 8 covers), and others, it sounded like it couldn’t fail. Of course I wanted to be on board with that! He told me to show up early, and he’d put me to work. Well, fast forward to this morning, as I didn’t get to sleep until 7 AM because I’d been up working on restoring older entries to the site (I’ll explain that situation in another post). So, considering I wasn’t getting to sleep until about 3 hours before the show started, I simply muttered “Fuck that noise”, and went to sleep.

Over the past few days, I guess I lost most of my interest in the show when it didn’t seem like anyone really knew about the thing. I was in a comic shop yesterday, where I overheard someone talking about it, but their account of the thing was riddled with misinformation. On top of it, these were the retailers, themselves, and not just some fanboys standing around. So, it was becoming apparent that those flyers hadn’t made the rounds as planned. Also, the website was only updated intermittently. By Thursday, in total, there had only been about 5 update posts – none of which contained any major information, outside of the list of creators who’d be present. The only show-exclusive item was a variant cover of Witchblade, which would benefit the Hero Initiative. That’s good for the Hero Initiative, but the whole “Show Exclusives” part of the site looked pretty sad, as nothing else was being listed alongside it. It’s almost like, “Why bother?”

The worst crime of the site, however, was that it didn’t even list information pertaining to the price of regular admission. It stated that tickets would be available at the door, and not in advance (unlike the Baltimore show). Also, admission would be $5 IF you signed up for the e-mail newsletter. What if I don’t want to sign up? Well, there’s no information for that scenario. Guess I would just have to find out at the door…

So, I woke up around 11:30, and really debated whether or not I wanted to even bother with it. I had told Marc I’d volunteer, but it’s not like he really cared. He’d be OK. The main thing, though, was that I didn’t really know how to get to George Mason University. Sure, there’s Mapquest, GPS, and all that, but I hate the thought of trying to navigate a college campus. Cornell was basically the entire town of Ithaca. I knew GMU wasn’t that big, but I didn’t want to waste most of the day wandering around aimlessly. I checked the con’s site, only to see that they had uploaded a map of the campus, showing the location of the show, as well as the lot (Lot A) which was the only one open to con guests. Nice of them to post this…on May 1st. Yeah, they did it yesterday. The day before the show.

Honestly, though, I really just wanted to go so that I could finally meet one of my twitter pals. He’s one of the few people I can actually have a tweetversation with, and I think he’d be a cool “real life” friend. I knew he was making the trip from Baltimore, so if he could do that, then I could suck it up and drive to VA.

I headed down to GMU, but I was looking at the map on my phone, as I didn’t have the chance to print it. The Zoom option didn’t want to work, so I was flying blind. Once on campus, I couldn’t, for the life of me, find Lot A. Driving around Patriot Circle, the signs about the show/lot simply ran out. I ended up parking in the lot for a shopping center across the street from the campus. I didn’t want to risk tickets/towing by parking in the wrong campus lot, and I don’t mind walking. If I had found Lot A, it would’ve been a “5-10 minute walk” to the show. I’m not sure if that estimate was for the “normal” person, or for us geek types, who don’t have much in the way of cardio training.

I wandered through campus a bit, and actually walked past Lot A. It wasn’t much closer than the shopping center, so I didn’t feel too bad about my choice. Since the main campus seems to be configured in the middle of a circle, it wasn’t too hard to figure out the general direction of central campus. That said, all of the buildings, while nice and new, all pretty much look the same. Every now and then, I’d see a fat kid carrying a bag of comics, coming from the general direction in which I was headed, so that was an encouraging sign. Eventually, I just had to suck it up, and ask some kid where the Student Union was. Luckily, it was right around the corner from where I was. Keep in mind, this whole walk, which was in the CORRECT direction, contained NO signage to imply that I was headed in the right direction. I couldn’t have been the only one to experience this. Sadly, I arrived just in time to receive a tweet saying that my twitter pal had just left.

Anyway, once at the student union, there was nothing outside to indicate what was going on inside. No “DC Comic-Con Here!” sign. The only clue was that there were more slovenly kids with bags of comics, and a line at the ATM. Once inside, I realized that it wasn’t exactly a well-oiled machine. Admission turned out to be $5, so I guess the newsletter tactic was a bust. The problem was that, after I paid the money, the guy manning the table was more concerned with me filling out a raffle ticket than with giving me my wristband. People were bunching up around me, so once I was done, his partner tried to charge me another $5 before he’d give me the wristband. I told him I’d already paid, and the 1st guy co-signed it, so I got my wristband. That’s when I entered the “ballroom” where the show was being held…

You know your grandma’s church? The one that’s old and drab ’cause only old people attend? The one where they hold bazaars in the drab auditorium? The same auditorium which has a stage up front, as they sometimes use it to present the Christmas Cantata? Well, that’s exactly what this venue was like. It had a very “flea market” vibe to it. The entire room was filled with vendor tables, while something seemed to be happening onstage. I started to make the loop, but people were just in the way. This is a common problem with conventions, as everybody wants to bodyblock the longboxes until they’re done looking through them – very territorial.

As I’m walking through, I realize I recognize a lot of the vendors. After all, I used to frequent those little comic shows they hold at the Crowne Plaza in Tysons. Yup, there was the guy with one arm. There was the jerk from Columbia. There was the dude who always gives me the stink eye. The gang was all there. As I continued around, something became VERY apparent to me: the vendors had only brought their older comics OR their junk. So, if you were new to comics, your only options were overpriced yellowed books from the ’70s or a bunch of $1 bin books from the mid ’90s. I was kind of offended by this, as it implied that none of the vendors had taken the show seriously. Just as the place looked like a church bazaar, they were treating it as one. As I walked around, I overheard a lot of grumbling amongst the vendors, as the show clearly hadn’t met their expectations. Now, I’m not sure if they were unhappy with the turnout, or the lack of sales, but I have to lay some of the blame on the vendors themselves. Outside of the shitload of unnecessary Deadpool variant covers released over the last few months, the vast majority of vendors didn’t have any books published within the last five years. On top of that, it was a great show for anyone looking for cheap trade paperback collections, but the single comic offerings were piss poor. One guy was selling “new comics”, one of which was an issue of Amazing Spider-Man that came out six months ago. Now, considering that series comes out thrice-monthly, that book is basically a year and a half old, when compared to other comics. That’s not NEW.

I made about 5 loops around the room, and couldn’t find ANYTHING on which I wanted to spend money. It was all junk. Hell, I was so disgusted that I passed up the FCBD books that some guy had leftover from yesterday. I bought the DC Comic-Con exclusive Witchblade because it was the show’s ONLY exclusive, and I wanted to have proof of the show’s existence in case it’s never held again. It helped out the Hero Initiative, though I’ve never exactly been sold on that organization (look up its guidelines some time – there’s a a VERY narrow pool of creators who even qualify for its assistance).

The saddest part of the convention was the lone Joker who was skulking around the show floor. This dude looked terrible! I mean, his costume was good, but he just looked depressed, and I’m not sure if it was part of his cosplay. I think he just felt out of place, as he was the ONLY one in cosplay that I saw. They were granting free admission to anyone who showed up in full costume, but he’s the only one who looked like he may have taken advantage of that offer. In any case, I eventually saw him hiding behind a pillar, fervently texting someone. Maybe he was asking Batman to come and take him back to Arkham. After all, that HAD to be a better option than where he was at the moment!

Oh, remember the commotion onstage? Well, that’s where those big name creators were set up. It was so awkward, however, as they were elevated over the rest of the show floor. To add to that, any fans wishing to get signatures & sketches had to wait off to the side of the stage. When it was their turn, they went up, as if they were about to receive a diploma. I’m being overly dramatic, but it really looked like an elitist setup, as we were all waiting to “pay tribute”. I already had signatures from all of them, so I didn’t even give it a second thought.

While on Loop #5, I noticed one vendor, who also happened to be the only vendor who was even remotely friendly to me, had a bunch of old toys for sale. Really old toys. That’s when I saw them: the Hasbro figures from the Stargate movie. Kurt Russell as Jack O’Neill, James Spader as Daniel Jackson, and nary a trace of likeness rights between them. Despite looking nothing like the actors, I LOVE Stargate, and I couldn’t shake a stick at the price tag of $3 each. As I took Daniel and O’Neill to the vendor, he laughed and told me he would cut me a deal for all of them. There were 6 figures, and he said he’d give them to me for half price. Now, I’m normally a sucker for a deal, but I really had no use for Lt. Kawalsky and Horus figures. I mean, Kawalsky looked just like O’Neill, but had a different color shirt, and I don’t care about grunt soldiers from a defunct toy line. I could’ve had them all for about $3 more than I spent, but I just didn’t want more junk in my apartment. I’m gonna hang Daniel and Jack on the wall, like the kitsch that they are. I simply had no use for the others.

IMG00087-20100503-1111_opt

The very second after I completed that transaction, I headed for the door.  I didn’t care about the raffle, or the door prizes, or spending another second in that place. I walked out the door, and didn’t look back.

While I had major problems with the venue, I think my main disappointment came from the fact that I had held such high expectations. It’s really a matter of semantics: this was not a convention, but a show. A comic convention is an experience. There are vendors, panel discussions, and it provides fans with the chance to meet their favorite creators. A comic show, however, is simply about selling. Vendors bring their backstock inventory, and hope to unload some of it to people who are trying to fill holes in their collections. Shows don’t always have guests, and when they do, they don’t tend to be “marquee”. This show definitely fit the latter definition. It was geared toward the collector, and the older collector at that. It didn’t serve as a proper introduction for the new fan, nor as encouragement to the casual fan. I’m a collector, and it didn’t even fit my needs, so I’m left to wonder what was the target audience for this show. It’s got some reputable names behind it, so maybe this was a case of “1st year mistakes”. I didn’t exactly have an amazing time, but fanboys are gluttons for punishment, so I’m not giving up on it completely. After all, there’s always next year…

06th Apr2010

Adventures West Coast #7: NBM Spotlight

by Will

Adventures West Coast #7: NBM Spotlight

Back when I worked in the comic industry, I was the Diamond contact for any publisher whose name began with a letter between “E” and “R”. This exact range would change over my tenure, but one publisher that I never lost was Nantier Beall and Minoustchine Publishing, AKA NBM Publishing. Now, NBM had a respected reputation in the industry, yet they weren’t putting out the books with the big name creators. There was no Moore or Gaiman coming from their corner of the market, so some of their best books sort of got lost in the shuffle. On numerous occasions, I would get calls from Terry Nantier, telling me that he felt they deserved more of a push for their titles. These phone pleas would be followed up by meetings at conventions, where he would again tell me that he wanted more promotion. At times, it was less of a request, and more of a demand. I’d tell him that I would do what I could, but I never really got any cooperation from the Diamond side of things. In any case, a few books would come across my desk, and I’d put them aside for when I was done reading Ultimate Final Invasion, or whatever was going on with the Big 2 at the time. Well, since I’ve got nothing but time on my hands, I finally got around to some of those NBM books, and all I can say is, “I’m really sorry, Terry!” NBM really has some great stuff in their library, and I only hope that he’s now getting the promotional attention that he always wanted.

Since these books were by Rob Vollmar and Pablo G. Callejo, plus the fact that I read them together, I figured it was only natural that I review them together.

The Castaways HC

Though it was actually the more recent of the two books, I actually read The Castaways first.
The Castways is the Great Depression-era tale of Tucker Freeman, a young boy who finds himself trying to emulate his estranged father, by riding the rails in the hope of a better life for himself. As the book starts, we find Tucker peeking at the collection of postcards that his father has sent home over the years. It seems that Mr. Freeman used to regularly leave home for long periods at a time. One day, he simply never came home. As a result, Tucker, along with his mother and siblings, were forced to move in with his father’s sister. A devout Christian woman, Tucker’s aunt was also a raging disciplinarian bitch. One day, she tells Tucker that he’s not pulling his weight, and that he’s at the age when he should strike out on his own, so that she would have one less mouth to feed. She gives him a few dollars, and tells him to leave immediately. Tucker hops the next boxcar out of town, and begins his journey to the unknown. Along his journey, Tucker meets Elijah Hopkins, a kindly old black man who’s also living the hobo’s life. Elijah takes Tucker under his wing, and teaches him the rules of the vagabond lifestyle. Tucker and Elijah bond during their time on the road, and when Elijah discovers that Tucker didn’t exactly want to leave home, he’s forced to make a decision on what path he feels would be best for the boy.

I found this to be such a touching story in short package. When the book started out, I found Callejo’s art style to be a bit jarring, as he tends to express every crease and wrinkle on the characters’ faces. The fact that it’s a two-tone book just exacerbated the fact that many of the old characters had a California Raisins-esque quality to them. His approach is quite European, which is understandable since most of his work tends to be for European publishers. By the end, however, I felt that his style was exactly what the story needed. Vollmar is great at expressing emotion, and he is quite gifted at writing significant moments between characters. I enjoyed every second of this book, and my only regret is that it took me 3 years to finally read it.

Bluesman HC

Next, I tackled Bluesman, which was actually the first collaboration between Vollmar and Callejo. Originally published as a 3-part, pseudo-prestige format series, Bluesman follows traveling guitarist, Lem Taylor, as he makes his way through rural Arkansas in pursuit of his next gig and next meal. Joining Lem on the journey is piano player, “Ironwood” Malcott.

The most significant aspect of Bluesman, from the get-go, is that Vollmar has done his research on the period. There are several historical references cited which serve to explain the lifestyle of a traveling musician in that era, as well as how he would be received by the rest of society. This background really helps to set the mood and boundaries of the tale. In early ’20s America, there was a class of man that simply traveled the rural south, relying upon the kindness of strangers. They would pay for their room and board with a song, and then set out for the next town. This was a complicated “occupation”, as many felt that these people should get “real” jobs so that they could make a real contribution to society. They looked down on these layabouts, as they “weren’t about nothin’.” At the same time, these people also enjoyed the entertainment provided by the traveling bluesmen. The best venues to play were, of course, speakeasies and juke joints, the locations of which weren’t exactly common knowledge during the days of Prohibition.

We first meet Lem and ‘Wood, as they wake up on the wrong end of a gun, due to the fact that they’ve been caught by the farmer in whose barn they were sleeping. Before the farmer is about to shoot them, Lem begins to preach and tells the farmer that he was a traveling holy man. This allows Lem and ‘Wood to escape, but only after they sing a few hymns for the farmer’s wife. They hit the road, and end up in a town called “Hope”. It’s here that we first see how society feels about traveling bluesmen, as they walk into a restaurant, and are ejected the minute the woman in charge notices Lem’s guitar case. She knows that they’re going to rely upon her charity, as they clearly don’t have any money. Again, Lem revs up a sermon so powerful that it leaves the woman in tears. Not only do they end up with their supper, but they also get a tip about a juke out in the woods that might provide them with their next gig.

The men soon find themselves at Shug’s joint, where an impromtu performance earns them a 2-night engagement. Shug is impressed enough with them that he allows them to sleep in his shed, and promises them a bigger take the next night. Well, on the second night, a local talent scout catches their act, and tells them that he wants them in the studio to record their songs. He tells them to be in Memphis within a week, and he’ll take care of the rest. It all sounds so promising, and that’s when Vollmar cites a passage which points out that a traveling bluesman’s success was always fleeting, no matter how close at hand it may seem. This is the part of the Behind The Music where the shit would hit the fan.

Lem was the responsible son-of-a-preacher-man, who grew up in a devout Christian household, and was never allowed to play his guitar in the presence of his father. Despite the rift that it caused in his family, he knew that his life had been changed the first time he heard the blues. Ironwood, while a bit older than Lem, was a LOT less responsible. Lem lived off strangers out of necessity, but you could tell that ‘Wood enjoyed it. He was simply a layabout, and the two men weren’t on the same page, as far as their goals were concerned. Plainly put, ‘Wood was trouble, as Lem found out on the second night. After their gig, ‘Wood convinced Lem to accompany him home with Tarene, one of the waitresses at the juke, despite Shug warning them against it. They get back to the cottage, and if Barry White had lived that long ago, they’d have put on one of his albums. Everybody was about to get some ass, when a truck rolls up out of the blue. In bursts Wyatt, the white owner of the house and, apparently, the waitress. Everyone scrambles to hide, but it’s no use, as he has noticed ‘Wood’s hat on the floor, signaling that his woman’s cheatin’ on him. At that point, action happens pretty fast, as Wyatt starts to beat the shit out of Tarene. Tarene chokes Wyatt in self defense, but he kills her by smashing a lamp against her head. He’s about to shoot her, as ‘Wood comes out of hiding and charges him with a knife. ‘Wood gets half of his head blown off, as Wyatt ends up with ‘Wood’s knife in his chest. With his remaining strength, Wyatt tries to shoot Lem, but the gun’s out of bullets. Lem’s in shock regarding ‘Wood’s death, and Tarene’s cousin, Maisy, tells him that he needs to leave before people show up, asking questions. When Lem leaves, Maisy finishes off Wyatt with the butt of his own gun.

Lem sets on the the run, and the book almost becomes a companion book to The Castways, as Lem embarks on a hobo’s life similar to that depicted there. While Lem’s on the run, Maisy hangs herself, and Wyatt’s father brings a lynch mob to town, demaning justice for his dead son. As far as he’s concerned, any black person could be punished for the crime, as the true injustice was that a white man had been killed, and he was convinced that one of the “town niggers” had done it. Luckily, the town has a fair sheriff, who won’t bend to the mob mentality. At this point, the book splits between the story of Lem on the run, as well as the sheriff’s investigation.

By the third act, everyone’s on stage, as the confrontation takes place in the middle of the woods, just before a tornado is about to hit. This section of the book is not only powerful, but it also lends a bit of the supernatural to the book. When we last see Lem, we’re pretty sure that he’ll never make it to Memphis to record that record. The epilogue, however, leads you to believe that may not have been the case, providing an ending so emotional that I defy you to finish the book with a dry eye.

As I said before, I’m sorry that it took me so long to discover the work of Vollmar and Callejo, but their work is a true example of “comics as literature” and I truly feel that it raises the bar on the medium to a new level. Definitely check these out!

19th Mar2010

Adventures West Coast #5: The Dirty 3-Way Edition

by Will

Adventures West Coast #5: The Dirty 3-Way Edition

OK, when I first started on this project, I knew that I would have more to say about some books than others. Usually, if it just didn’t resonate with me, I’m going to have less to say. Well, welcome to that installment, as the following 3 books don’t even warrant individual entries. This isn’t to say, however, anything about their quality; unlike most fanboys, I’m going to take the high road, and say that they just weren’t my cup of tea.

First up, we’ve got You Have Killed Me, which is an Oni Press book by Jamie S. Rich and Joelle Jone. Full disclosure: I LOVE Oni Press. I was their account manager when I was with Diamond, and they’re some of the nicest guys in comics. At this point, I’ve read quite a few Oni books, so I’m familiar with their usual creators, as well as the general style of their books. Not to generalize too much, but a lot of Oni books revolve around mid-twenties slackers who get tangled up in some sort of high-jinks. Their most popular example of this genre is the Scott Pilgrim franchise, but it can be seen in other books, like Pounded! and Labor Days. Jamie S. Rich has come to be a master at this genre, and You Have Killed Me is, pretty much, the same thing, only set in an early 20th century, film noir universe.

I’m not even going to go through all of the twists and turns of the plot. If you’ve ever experienced ANYTHING noir, then you already know where this is going: murder, mob, jazz, and a double-crossing dame. That’s it. I felt that it zigzagged more than it needed to, which served to confuse the plot. Another impediment was the artwork of Joelle Jones. It seemed that she was only working with about 5 different character models, so it was difficult to figure out who the characters were at times. Was this the femme fatale in this panel, or was it her dead sister? I know that kind of misdirect was integral to the plot, but it got worse in other places. There was a skinny black character model and a fat black character model. If there were 2 skinnies in the room, you didn’t really know which was which. “They all look the same!” I know Joelle’s a talented artist, as she was responsible for the recent Dr. Horrible one-shot from Dark Horse, as well as some work on Fables. I had been hearing a LOT about this book quite a while before it came out, and I feel that the delays may have been due to the art side of things. In order to get the book finished, I fear she may have cut some corners.

In the long run, I didn’t feel this book lived up to the emo library that Oni has built over the years. If you’re an indie completist, go ahead and give it a try, but don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

Next up, we have Olympus, an Image series by Nathan Edmondson and Christian Ward. Going into this, I knew nothing about the creators or the subject matter. I think I may have said this before, but I know next to nothing about mythology. Yes, I realize they’re the classics, and the learned folks would look down on me for my ignorance. That said, most of the mythology I know is stuff that I picked up from watching Xena and Hercules.

As far as the plot of Olympus, I don’t really wish to get into the details, as I’m afraid I wouldn’t do it justice, given my ignorance of the source material. Over the course of the story, there were points that I could tell would be meaningful to those familiar with the duo, but I was not one of those people. Ultimately, the series followed immortal brothers Castor and Pollux as they alternated between Earth and Hades. It seems that they die every year, only to come back and do it all over again 12 months later. A threat gets loose from the underworld that threatens the immortal realm. So, Castor and Pollux set out to preserve themselves, as well as the rest of their ilk. That’s pretty much what I got out of it.

I will say that the art is the driving force of Olympus. It’s the sort of thing where, even if you don’t wish to read it, you would still get a kick out of “looking at the pretty pictures”. Christian Ward brings a trippy, almost watercolor quality to the book. It can, at times, be a bit hard to follow, but I certainly think it fits the otherworldly nature of the book. I wanted to like this book, as I knew there was good stuff there that I just didn’t understand. There is certainly an audience out there for this book, and I’m just sorry that I’m not it.

Finally, we’ve got Dark Minds, an Image series by Pat Lee. That pretty much says it all right there. If you’re familiar with comics, you know why. If you’re not, here’s the CliffsNotes version: Pat Lee is a bit of a snake oil salesmen in the comic industry. He loves drawing robots, but he ruined his reputation by stealing the work of others – either through outright infringement or lack of payment to artists in his stable (for more, just check his wiki Talk page ),

Well, it seems ol’ Pat’s at it again! I’m gonna make this quick for ya. Have you ever seen Ghost In The Shell? Have you ever seen, pretty much, any anime concerning cyborgs or clones? Then, you already know this story. Hackneyed notions of “I’m a clone, so why do I have these memories?” or the popular “Why is this giant, multinational conglomerate trying to kill me? They created me, after all!”

The most jarring aspect of the book is that it’s almost like it had no editor. It did, however, have an editor: Pat’s brother, Roger Lee. I hope he wasn’t paid. They really could’ve used a crash course with a Scott McCloud book because they don’t seem to understand how to lay out a comic page. The speech bubbles don’t flow correctly, seriously disrupting the flow of dialogue between characters. That same dialogue also sounds like it was written by someone whose native language is NOT English (the Lees are Canadian, so don’t go there with me). The art, too, is flawed, as there are scenes with anatomically atrocious characters posed around immaculately drawn sports cars. Lightbox, anyone?

Dark Minds is an earlier Pat Lee “masterpiece”, and he went on to have a pretty successful career after acquiring the Transformers license for his company, Dreamwave. His financial dealings eventually led to the company’s demise, and he hasn’t worked much in recent years. When this book was published, it was at the dawn of the manga craze. You could shit in a bag and call it “Neo Tokyo”, and fandom would think you were a fucking rock star. Well, Pat Lee was the Elvis of that movement. The King is dead, folks, and it’s about time.

07th Mar2010

Adventures West Coast #4: The Lone Ranger Vol 1: Now And Forever

by Will

Adventures West Coast #4: The Lone Ranger Vol 1: Now And Forever

Look, I don’t do much preliminary research for these things. Sure, we live in a world where Wikipedia is just a mouseclick away, but I’m not on wiki when I’m reading these books. If something stands out to me, I might research it further, but I don’t check to see what has come before as I’m writing these. That said, I know next to nothing about the Lone Ranger. I know he’s a hero on a horse named Silver. I know he’s masked, and I also know he has a sidekick, named Tonto. That’s where it ends. So, that’s what I took with me into reading this book.

Dynamite Entertainment presents The Lone Ranger, a pretty solid story by Brett Matthews & Sergio Cariello. I feel the need, however, to explain an oddity of the “Dynamite process”. You see, they hire “name” artists to do character desgins, then pass the actual books on to somewhat lesser known artists. In the case of The Lone Ranger, the character designs are by John Cassaday, whom most know by his work on Astonishing X-Men and Planetary. Now, I’m sure that John brought something to the table, in terms of visualizing the characters, but I don’t really know why he gets a credit. I mean, he listed in the credits just like he was there for the whole process, but it’s almost like he wrote the screenplay, but not the final script. It’s clearly a marketing ploy, so that his name will attract interest on shelves. I understand this, but I’m still bothered by it for some reason. I feel that it takes away from the work and time that Cariello’s putting into the book, month in and month out.

So, The Lone Ranger wasn’t always alone. You see, he was a Texas Ranger, along with his father and brothers. One day, out on patrol, all but one of them are killed in an ambush. Left for dead, the Lone Ranger wakes up in the desert, only to find that he’s about to be killed by a masked assailant. At that moment, he’s saved by a well-timed arrow from a mysterious man on a horse. We find out that this man is a Native American, named Tonto, who proceeds to nurse The Ranger back to health.

Meanwhile, Black Bart, a mysterious black man travels the frontier, killing all rangers and relatives of rangers. He was the one who had ordered the original hit, and when he finds out that a ranger survived, he sets out to finish the job. After some back and forth, The Ranger and Tonto form an uneasy alliance, as Tonto agrees to help him get his revenge on those who murdered his family.

It turns out that one of The Ranger’s brothers was married, but had kept the wife and child a secret, so as to protect them. The Ranger knew about this secret family, and sets out to protect them before Black Bart reaches them. Tonto uses himself as bait to distract Bart, while The Ranger continues on. In the end, The Ranger manages to save his remaining family, returns to save Tonto, and leaves an incapacitated Bart with a knife. You see, over the course of the adventure, The Ranger remembers a lesson that his father had taught him: sometimes the job calls for killing, but once you start killing, it changes you. The Ranger knows that Bart’s evil, but he won’t allow him to change him. Bart’s trapped in a derailed train, with little hope of survival. The Ranger won’t finish him, but he leaves him with the means to finish himself, should he choose to do so. With everything wrapped up, The Ranger and Tonto make their partnership official, and Tonto first calls his friend “Kemosabe” as they race to the horizon.

In all, it was a solid read. It was a great origin story, which left the door open for many more stories to tell. There was a b-story involving the railroad as it moved west. It’s clear that it’s development would be important or the development of the nation, but it’s also a political goldmine. We meet a character, Butch Cavendish, who seems ready to take advantage of that expansion. It’s clear that he hired Bart to round up a gang to take out the rangers, but his full intentions aren’t known at this point. The story felt somewhat decompressed, as the whole thing took place over 6 issues, when it probably could’ve been done in 4. That said, I’m putting the book in my “to keep” pile. For now.

03rd Mar2010

Adventures West Coast #3: Scarface: Devil In Disguise

by Will

Adventures West Coast #3: Scarface: Devil In Disguise

Scarface: Devil In Disguise was published by IDW during the pseudo-Scarface revival when the video game, Scarface: The World Is Yours, was released. IDW, like a lot of comic companies, LOVES them some licenses. Just as with other companies, some of these licenses make more sense than others. IDW, however, tends to gravitate to prequels and sequels more than direct adaptations.They first released Scarface: The Movie Scriptbook, which was a move that I didn’t really understand. Next, they released Scarface: Scarred For Life, which was considered the sequel to the movie. Basically stealing the same premise as the video game, Scarred For Life assumed that Tony Montana didn’t die at the end of the movie, and had been in a coma under federal protection for several years. I’m not sure where the game took things, but Scarred For Life had Tony at the bottom of the totem pole, trying to work his way back to the top, while learning how much times had changed. The writing was juvenile at times, as it featured Tony killing people with his colostomy bag. It also didn’t help that the art could best be described as “seizured cartoony”. This book didn’t do much, pro or con, for IDW’s profile, but it seemed like the contract called for one more series, which led to Scarface: Devil In Disguise.

Written by Joshua Jabcuga, with art by Alberto Dose, Devil In Disguise was a prequel designed to show us Tony Montana, AKA Scarface,’s childhood, and explain how he earned that infamous scar. What they ended up with was a story that might’ve stood alright on its own, but makes me wonder if anyone involved had EVER watched Scarface.

Where to begin….well, the American mafia decide to take out Castro. They’re upset that he ran them out of Cuba, where they had been running casinos. They decide to cover the assasination under the guise of “patriotism”, but they need a fall guy. Enter Tony Montana. The hit needs to be an inside job, and he’s been promised a green card and transportation to the US, so that he can join Mama and his sister, Gina.

Flashback! You see, Tony had been a bad little kid for some time, so when the first boats left for America, Mama and Gina were on ’em, but they left him behind. He ended up growing up on the streets, but was eventually taken in by members of Fidel’s Revolucion. This is where he mets his partner, Manolo, whom he saves from a gang of bullies. Anyway, the two grow up and Tony eventually joins one of the mercenary armies. Trudging through the jungles, terrorizing peaceful villagers. Eventually, Tony gets fed up and kills his commanding officer, signalling that he’s finally had enough of Castro and his regime. This makes him ripe for the pickings when the mafia comes calling.

Back to normal time! The cries for revolution grow louder, and the people begin to arm themselves for protection. This is how Tony makes a name for himself, as he takes over the gunrunning. It’s at this time that he falls in love with a whore. No, I’m not being disrepectful – she was a prostitute who worked in one of Tony’s brothels. Well, Tony got sloppy when hiring the help because, unbeknownst to him, he hired the brother of the commanding officer that he’d killed in the jungles. The guy kills Tony’s whorefriend, and slashes him in the face, giving him THE SCAR!!! Dun Dun DUNNNNN! It’s really anticlimactic, especially since Tony just cuts off the dude’s hand instead of killing him. Of course, the guy comes back later, but with a hook hand! A fucking HOOK HAND. Don’t worry, another whore, in some kind of act of whorely sisterhood, blows him away with a shotgun.

Man, I’m tired of writing about this book…So, Tony realizes that shit’s getting too hot in Cuba, so he and Manny start plotting to get to the US. They, along with some other Cubans, grab some inner tubes and float away. A couple days later, they wash up on shore in Miami. I shit you not. All of that, spread over 5 issues, at $3.99 each ($17.99 trade). All of that, just to end with Tony washing up on shore, just like every Fox News myth of immigrants:”See? They all just float over here, stealing our jobs. I’ll bet some of them were even criminals back in their countries!”

Like I said before, this story would’ve been fine as an OGN, called “Havana!” or something, but it didn’t really include much to place it in the Scarface canon. Also, it’s timeline is a bitch, because it bounces around between 3 different periods of his life: childhood and criminal rise, with interstitials of a stint as a political prisoner. Like every black man in America, I LOVE Scarface, but I did not like this. A good prequel helps support what you already know about a franchise. This did not do that; this was simply a money grab.

20th Mar2007

Five Things I Learned From 300

by Will

“Let us rock and let us roll!”

So, I saw 300 last weekend. What did I think? It was OK. Yeah, that’s pretty much it.

You see, I’m not the biggest Frank Miller fan. Nothing against him, but I’m just not there for all of his comic stuff. I never read Sin City, so that movie was just “meh” for me. I haven’t seen Robocop in years. So, from where I stand, the only comic work of Miller’s that I did like was Dark Knight Returns, and in my older age I’m beginning to see that it was the beginning of the death of modern day comics (another rant for another time).

In any case, I learned 5 important things from 300, the motion picture:

1) The whole “you need to support your country when it goes to war” propaganda is a LOT more powerful when the nation’s leader actually goes into said war, leading the charge, and sacrifices his own life.

2) The ugly guy eventually gets the girl. It doesn’t matter if you’re a deformed mutant. Pretty soon, someone powerful is going to need what you’ve got, be it skills, knowledge, or strategy. And there’s a hot, young virgin in it for ya. Hooray for uglies!

3) Elephants were originally GINORMOUS and used for war. Eventually, God realized that He may have overestimated things a bit. That’s when He created the ePhant Nano, which is the elephant that we know of today.

4) You know, I’m a smart kid, but I’m not big on history. I thought this was a whole “based on a true story” thing. Yup, until I saw the guy with the goathead with the harem. And even then, I thought, “Well, maybe there were people with goatheads back then.” Yeah, I’m not so smart anymore.

5) One should never go into battle against a 9 foot tall drag queen. It’s as true today as it was many centuries ago.

12th Mar2007

Working In Comics: New York Comic-Con & Stalking Frank Cho

by Will

“I hope you guys have ‘hobo-stab insurance’!”

So, where were we…regrets. You know, as I looked back on the last 3 posts, they were real downers, and this series could really go on forever. So, for now, I’m going to make it an recurring feature, but not let it take over the entire blog. It’s too easy to fall into that trap. Look at Dateline. You know, there WAS a time when it wasn’t all about child predators. Anyway, that’s not a life for me. Let’s talk about work.

I haven’t really written about my job, as comic kids are WAY too web-savvy. I mention a title that I hate, and the next thing you know, I’m going to read “The Diamond Guy hates Planet Hulk!” on some Newsarama post.

In any case, sometimes I lose track of reality, and certain events serve to show me just how jaded I’ve become. You think your job’s hard? You ain’t seen nothing til you’ve seen a pair of horny giraffes going down on each other. Yup, a longnecked soixante-neuf (did you know that a giraffe has 2 penises? Well, one of these most certainly did!.) Oh yeah, it’s real and it’s $2.50.
You see, people think of comics, and they think, “Biff, Bam, Pow!” but there’s a lot of freaky stuff out there that’s not advertised in everday places. And it’s my job to peruse and list each and every one of them.

And the industry. Everybody hates everybody else. Recently, I was talking to one of my coworkers about a guy, and his response was, “You know, it’s a shame that some people just didn’t go down with the towers.” Yeah, those towers.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my job, and I don’t think I’ve ever said that before. Sure, there aren’t enough hours in the day, and my commute’s an hour each way, but I get to work in comics! Whoo-hoo! At the same time, I hop online and everyone hates me. Not me, specifically, but my role in the machine. Everybody hates a middleman, even when things aren’t his fault. They love to kill the messenger, but they need the messenger to get the word out about a golden age revival, or the latest wave of hot Japanese boy-on-boy action. Yep, all of these are out there. Comics aren’t just Batman & Spider-Man. Nowadays, comics are “art”, they’re used to educate, and if you like furries, they’re there to help you get your rocks off. These ain’t your grandaddy’s comics. Or maybe they are…it might explain why you no longer go home for the holidays.

Anyway, I haven’t posted lately because I have been bone tired from the New York Comic Con. It was my first work trip, and it rocked my socks! At the same time, it was exhausting. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not parties with “creative types” all the time. The show was from Thursday-Sunday, and I didn’t even go out until Saturday night. But OH, what a night it was!

2 of my dreams came true at the end of the con on Saturday. First of all, I was walking through the hall, and noticed a new-ish banner hanging in the DC Booth. The previous night, Gail Simone had been seated there (btw, I introduced myself to her, and tried to discuss the Reappropriate drama, which went over about as well as a fart in church…), but I saw that there was now a Wildstorm banner there. Well, curiosity got the best of me, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I thought it was a comic mirage. Certainly, Jim Lee couldn’t be sitting right in front of me! And I would have to be losing my mind if I seriously thought that only 7 people were in line for him! But alas, it was him.

***********************sidebar, creator stats*******************************************
Jim Lee,
former EIC Wildstorm
founder, Image Comics (the first real competitor to Marvel & DC)

Penciller on launch of X-Men (#1 held record for highest selling comic @ 1,000,000 copies)
Went on to pencil WildC.A.T.S.; Gen13; Batman: Hush; Superman: For Tomorrow; All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder

Creator of the Wildstorm Universe

*************************end of creator stats******************************************

So, I got in line, but I had NOTHING for him to sign. Nor did I have a sketchbook. After all, I was there to work. So, imagine how I felt when I noticed that, not only was he signing, he was SKETCHING. FOR. FREE.

Luckily, DC had these backing board-sized pages on one of the tables, and soon my time came. I got up to him, and he said hi I responded with a nervous, “Hi, it’s an honor to meet you. How are you?” He didn’t catch that last part. Once again, I stammered, “How are you?” I don’t even remember what happened. I think I asked him for Batman. Either way, about 5 mins later,I had my very own Batman head sketch, signed “To Will, Best, Jim Lee”. My own Jim Lee Batman. If you’re one of the 3 comic people who read this thing, I’ll give you a moment to go get a towel and wipe yourselves off. If not, all other men should just imagine they’ve met Chuck Norris, and women should picture…I dunno…who’s a woman that all women would like to meet? Forget it. Anyway, it was a momentous occasion. But wait; there’s more!

So, as I was leaving the DC booth, I noticed Frank Cho seated at an adjacent booth. Now, Frank is a U.MD:CP grad, mostly known for his sydicated comic strip “Liberty Meadows”. Recently, he’s had a bunch of success drawing Marvel superheroes, like Spider-Woman and the Avengers.

Now, here’s my thing with Frank. I’m almost stalking him lately. You see, I met him 2 years ago at my first Baltimore Con, but he meets so many people at those things that it doesn’t count. But about 3 months ago, I met him, “for real”, at a local comic shop. It seems that he likes the sushi place next door, so he comes in to eat his lunch. Imagine my shock to walk into a comic shop on a quiet Thursday, and find him just sitting, eating his lunch! We had about an hour-long shit-shooting fest, as I asked him about Civil War and whatnot.

Well, fast forward to about a month after that meeting, when he and his family came into Toys R Us. Immediately, I recognized him, and after his “this guy is sketching me out” look subsided, I helped him find some Legos.

So, back to NYCC. I see Frank, and I go over to him just to say hi. When I get up to the table, it’s just the two of us, and I say, “Man, I swear I’m not stalking you!” Then, I asked if he was doing the whole show and if he’d be doing sketches. I was just chatting, so I was pretty surprised when he said, “Well, I’ll do one for you.” Once again, I had nothing to sketch on. It had taken me forever to get the page for Jim Lee, and now this! As I frantically searched my bag for some semblance of flat paper, I decided to run off to a retailer friend for paper. I told him I’d be right back, and capped it off with “Please don’t hate me!” As I ran off, I heard him say, “Hey, I hate you already!” BFF, baby!

So, I came back with a backing board, and when he asked what I wanted, I just told him to surprise me. Well, it was awesome when he skecthed Liberty Meadows mainstay Truman, who was screaming, “I Want My Lego!”. He remembered

Why did I remember that story today? Well, when I came in to work this morning, there was a comic sitting in front of my monitor. Looking closer, I saw that it was signed, “To Will, my Diamond Stalker”. You see, Frank did the art on last week’s Mighty Avengers #1 (tie-in to the death of Captain America, which I’m sure you heard about), and he was doing signings at the same store in which I met him. It seems that one of my coworkers who knows EVERYBODY in the industry had gotten it for me. And it’s moments like that where I can’t help but think, “This job kicks ASS!”

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